ICE's COVID report: The change is not drastic but solutions should be


COVID-19 will not result in a drastic shift for infrastructure, but to lead the recovery the sector needs a long-term green strategy, with investment in fibre, 5G and active travel, experts have said.

The COVID-19 and the new normal for infrastructure systems – next steps white paper from the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) on behalf of the Infrastructure Client Group (ICG) recommends a series of steps to maximise the value of infrastructure investment and ensure that challenges such as decarbonisation, regional inequalities and economy-wide productivity are tackled.


The report also prominently features population growth, the 2050 net-zero emissions target and the UN Sustainable Development Goals as key issues, and concludes that to deliver these interventions 'better, faster and greener' will require better alignment of construction initiatives.

It highlights four key enablers within its recommendations to support this shift towards more strategic reinvention in how infrastructure is delivered:

  • investing in digitalisation
  • embedding client-led enterprise-based delivery models based on Project 13 principles
  • shifting to intelligent and outcome-based procurement models
  • fostering new leadership based on a systems integration skillset

Following the rise in homeworking and subsequent reductions in public transport use, the report also recommends a focus on accelerating the roll-out of both full-fibre and 5G communications infrastructure, as well as greater provision for cycling and walking.

ICE president Paul Sheffield said: ‘Thanks to the strong response to our call for evidence, we’ve been able to highlight an expectation that there will be no drastic shift as a result of COVID-19.

‘Instead it has merely shone a light on priorities we have always known about; regional inequalities, the pressing challenge of decarbonisation and the need to improve productivity particularly through digital adoption.

'There are real opportunities to become more intelligent and outcomes-focused in how we deliver infrastructure, in order to unlock better value for money and reduce carbon. We will be driving forward the four strategic enablers identified by this work to capitalise on the unique opportunity to reshape how infrastructure is delivered in the public's name.’

Nirmal Kotecha, chair of the ICG management board, said: ‘It was imperative we conduct this project, to ensure we start off on the correct footing as we plan the recovery. As infrastructure owners and operators, we have a duty to ensure the infrastructure system is managed and developed with clear societal outcomes in mind.

‘These recommendations provide a framework to ensure that happens in a way that is focused, aligned across supply chains and strategic in the end goal.’

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